SPORTO! 1/1/2012 - To London 2012, and waking up
“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Of course, when Dr. Johnson uttered that immortal motto for Britain’s capital city, it was at a time of no Oyster cards, bendy buses, chuggers, tourists, smog and protesters on St. Paul’s. There was certainly no Olympic Games to consider: Johnson passed away some hundred years before Baron Pierre de Coubertin, upon visiting the Olympian Games of the Wenlock Olympian Society (in Shropshire no less – this Olympic lark isn’t all about them Londoners), formed the International Olympic Committee which in turn became the fuselage of what is the modern Olympic movement.
Right now, as we celebrate New Year’s Day in Britain with London 2012 being pummeled at us from all angles there seems to be a breed of tiredness Dr. Johnson so derided settling in. But this much is certain – and the writer can promise you this now – in December, there will be a road somewhere with an outdated billboard. It will be of an Olympic sponsor’s product and carry Wolff Olins’ much-discussed logo somewhere in the corner. The reader will see that logo and have a flood of memories enter the consciousness – in an instant – before they realise it’s all over.
The London Olympics may have felt like a seven year period of dress and make-up; of stage construction and conjecture. But by the time 10 September comes round there will be a hole in the public consciousness, an ache. A realisation that something has gone, in the most part forever. Not every country gets to stage an event of the size and importance of the Olympic Games. And be clear too, this is once in a lifetime stuff. If you have kids under twelve, they may be fortunate to see another Games on these isles in their lifetime – maybe.
For these reasons alone, shouldn’t we just relax and embrace this incredible opportunity to see our country, and our talent showcased on a stage that simply cannot be replicated? These are amongst the most challenging financial times the world has ever seen – and the world is changing at a speed few can fathom. The host country of the next Summer Olympics – Brazil – have just overtaken Britain in the financial stakes. Others will follow sooner than we realise. So do we just climb up the proverbial stairs to Bedfordshire and accept we’re not very good? Or do we, in 2012, realise that in fact we are a great country – not without problems, or issues – but fortunate to have some the greatest cities, brains, capabilities and history in the world.
‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’
Baron Pierre de Coubertin
In 2012, London stages its third Olympic Games – the first city in history to achieve the feat.
We were told to cower after the largesse of Beijing in 2008, but British architects, engineers and builders have delivered venues like the Velodrome, the Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium which are all spectacular examples of form and function. Each are already iconic and unlike many venues in previous host cities have their future mapped out. When people like Ian Thorpe choose to come out of retirement, and so threaten their hard-earned legacy, to complete in London you know that this hasn’t been another case of “Useless Brits late delivering… Again.”
Worth throwing in for the naysayers (more on you later) too that large sectors of that huge construction workforce in Stratford are Brits – all gainfully employed and contributing.
When naysayers and ‘haters’ are extrapolated for a moment, there is a British public desperate to not only see the Games start but for our team, Team GB, put on a great show. Far from Football being the nation’s sport, the ticket sale process has underlined just how much we love swimming and cycling. The memories of SPOTY’s indiscretions will soon be forgotten as the likes of Adlington, Reade, Payne and Shaw will have us at the edge of our seats, and embarrass a fair few folks in the process.
Note too that this is the Olympics – we compete as Great Britain. No ‘In-ger-land’ mentality and zeitgeist here. Definitely no need for ghastly Umbro clobber filling our streets along with Eau de Stella…
One of the world’s few elite broadcasters will deliver the games and once more demonstrate that the BBC is at its best on a global stage. Again, all British talent powering what will be an incredible machine. Television will be important for those who weren’t quite so lucky to snare tickets for the main event. But to those people, I’d simply urge – from pure personal experience – do not give up the faith. There will be plenty of opportunities between now and July.
Legacy has been the buzz word of the London Games, but it goes deeper than a kid doing track and field or getting a venue a new landlord. If the world can see us at our best, then maybe – just maybe – we might just dare to believe in ourselves again. These are, quite possibly, the most anticipated Olympic Games in the history of the modern era. Some credence to Dr. Johnson’s immortal words.
Now, back to those naysayers. Yes, the Olympic Games has cost a lot of money, and there are arguably many other things we could be doing than staging a festival of sport in times of austerity. And even beyond the money issue, there is the point around the inconvenience to London, and to Britons who do not care for the event. There is a desire to respond in kind by simply saying that you can’t please everyone. To be negative and derisory toward their negativity.
I won’t. Simply because, after all that has happened in recent years – in fact in all that has happened since the last time we staged an Olympic Games in 1948, isn’t it time to remind the world who we are? To show our children that we are not a useless, sickly nation. To not simply shrug our shoulders and utter ‘that’s why the other people are doing better than us.’ We are a magnificent country, with flaws and blemishes that forever push us to think harder and try to be better. On some occasions we fail, but on many others we triumph. Whether that’s old empire Bulldog Spirit, or the postmodern byproduct of cultural fusion - either way when we are together, as one, we stir and inspire. We succeed.
To 2012. To London. Citius, Altius, Fortius.
To read some of my previous blogs on London 2012, visit the boxset.